rejecting perfection

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Vulnerability is difficult. So difficult, that most of us spend our time avoiding it at all costs. We throw up defenses, guard our hearts, put in electric fences and moats filled with alligators… anything to keep our inner (vulnerable) selves “safe” and from being seen.

Perfectionism is one of the many, many defenses we use to avoid vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown elaborates that perfectionism is essentially the avoidance of three things: shame, blame, or judgment. In its root form, we attempt to maintain a perfect facade, or force ourselves into an impossible mold of perfection that will, in reality, never come into fruition. Because the concept of “perfect” does not exist, especially as we apply it to humans, who are designed as imperfect.

I am a perfectionist, so Dr. Brown’s words resonate with me very hard. As I chewed and chewed on this idea, I came to see how my “I have it together” facade is a part of my perfectionism. I avoid asking for help as much as I can, I try to figure everything out on my own… and as a result, I don’t allow myself to ever be vulnerable with others. And here I’m wondering why I can’t get the support I need from other people, or develop very intimate connections in my relationships? If you’re putting up a constant front that you have your shit together, then the obvious conclusion is that people are going to assume you don’t need any help or support. You basically look like you only need a relationship with yourself, and no one else. We need to look at our role in creating the dynamics that perpetuate our misery.

Today, I was with my supervisor and she challenged me as I was discussing a case with her. Taken aback, I thought about my reaction, and I realized that I became defensive not only because I got caught in my client’s “sob story,” but also because if I were being honest with myself, I was subconsciously trying to hold up my “I have it together” and “I know it all” front. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t have it together all of the time. I don’t know it all. And I need other people to help me, and to provide me with their perspectives.

In one of my sessions with another client, we talked about this very topic, as she has the same issue as me. I had told her to practice saying to herself, “I don’t have it together all of the time, and that’s okay.” After my meeting with my supervisor, I saw that I needed to take my own advice and do the same with myself. The thing is, as difficult as being vulnerable is, we need it. We need to be vulnerable in order to develop deep, intimate connections with others; intimacy cannot exist without vulnerability. We need to be vulnerable in order to learn, grow and become the person we have the potential to become. We need to be vulnerable if we want to heal our deepest pains, fill the empty trenches in our souls. Embracing our limitations, weaknesses and “ugly bits” in truth empower and liberate us. Yet the funny thing is, many of us choose to avoid vulnerability, and thereby keep ourselves stuck in the hole.

Being a therapist doesn’t mean I am perfect, or have everything figured out. I don’t have everything figured out; no one does. But I am committed to self-growth and self-love, even if it means loving those pieces of me that I internally fight to reject. And I choose not to live by the dictation of shame, blame, or judgment… because no matter what others, or even I, say, I am imperfect by nature. We are all imperfect. Simply, it means practicing what I preach, not only as a therapist, but as a friend or human being. I have limitations and I make mistakes… but that’s okay. I am human. I am me. And we all wired to need one another.

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in comes you

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Thoughts come in one after the other, slipping in and quickly by. Some are tourists, some are occasional visitors, and others are regulars. I acquaint myself with a few of them, while some others I attempt to dismiss as they seem too grumpy and negative.

And then there’s you. Coming in day after day, minute after minute, and I can barely catch my breath and relish a reprieve. Before I know it, I expect your presence, yearn for it even, and in my heart I feel that familiar swell, one that I would never be able to stop, like a fast-moving train, crashing into me and exploding into millions of glimmering sparkles, warming me in hollow darkness, on the coldest of winter nights.

Yes, a few thoughts have become my enemies, and others have become my close companions. Yet you are the beauty in the tension, the thought I wish I could erase, the thought that I cannot get enough of. I want to push you far away into the distant heavens, but hug you close because I do not wish to imagine a space in time when you’ll no longer come, when your visits become sparse and slowly die away.

And there you sit, in muted reality, without a clue of what you really mean to me, of who you have become in my mind. As much as I have tried to fight it, you are no longer a tourist, or even a regular. You are so much more than I can even begin to fathom.

beauty in the tears

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After a very heavy crying session, I wiped my eyes gently with a tattered tissue and found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror. My automatic thought?

I look beautiful. Somehow I look more beautiful even after I’ve cried.

Pink cheeks, pink nose, full lips, watery eyes, yet in the light the tears make them look almost silver. How can I even look this pretty when I’m in such agony and pain?

But so it is, and as ashamed as we are in this society to show our emotions and tears, I was taken aback by the thought that by being in my emotions and expressing them, I became more beautiful. I looked raw, real, authentic. And there is something attractive about that, something in that that morphed my face into embodying and actualizing the beauty I hold. The mask I consistently maintain and my “I have it together” demeanor seem to dampen it, and I didn’t realize it until the moment I stared at my tear-streaked face.

You hold so much beauty in just allowing you to be you, in your emotions, in your pain. The truth is, I don’t have it together. I struggle, and feel so deeply that it hurts, and I can’t bear it on my own. I make mistakes, I fear, and I doubt. And perhaps it is that vulnerability that makes me beautifully human. Beautifully me.

There should be no shame in your feelings, if they are a part of who you are… if there are what make you even more lovely.

still hanging

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Truth be told, I’ve always sucked at letting go.

All the unanswered questions are threads still tied to my wrist, tugging and beating against my thin skin to the rhythm of my heavy heart. They keep me hanging on.

It’s all because of you that I hate being left hanging now.

But I keep it to myself, because I already hear their words spitting harshly in my ears, “That was a long time ago. Shouldn’t you be over it by now? Just stop thinking about it.” Yet I’m coming to find that when it comes to the matters of the heart, time plays a very minuscule role, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. It feels as if very little time has passed, especially when I see your face, when I am reminded of you on freeway, at the cafe, or in those moments when you randomly pop into my mind. The wound is still there, bleeding profusely, but I only clench my fists and wish fervently that it wouldn’t matter anymore.

I often tell myself, “You had a serious lapse of judgment there.” The neon sign flashed at me, telling me to turn the other way.

But that’s the other thing. Although in all other cases it is an apt sword, logic, too, cannot tame the tsunami of emotions that flood you when you let yourself go to love.

And when I let the emotions flow, they scream out, I hate you. I miss you. I’m hurting so bad right now. Get out of my head. Leave me be. I want your memory to die away into the deep recesses of my pretend. And how desperately I still want to pretend… but my feet are firmly rooted, and I worry now if I will ever fly again.

When two people break apart, you are left to pick up the broken pieces alone, to make sense of it, to reconcile, to forgive, to move on. But what do you do when you are missing so many pieces, that you don’t have enough to put something together?

So I keep trekking, keep rising up. Hope is my air and I inhale. Make do with what you have.

The threads pull and wrap around my wrist tighter.

My heart is a mangled mess and even though I try and try to re-right it back, I know nothing will ever be the same. I won’t be the same. Maybe I’m not supposed to be. Even with all the agony, pain and despair, we’re meant to be moved, to be affected, to hurt. Maybe that’s the only way we learn and grow.

changing the love story

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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, coming to a plethora of realizations about myself. One of them is how in most of my real love stories, I am a secondary character. Never the one, the main character, the center of the plot.

But this isn’t a “woe is me” post. Rather, I begun reflecting on the role I was playing in creating these stories, forcing myself to take responsibility for the stories I tended to slip into. As a therapist, I so often see my clients refuse to take responsibility for their actions and the roles they play in creating their misery. I get that, because it is tremendously easier to take the victim posture, than to own your shit. It’s exceedingly difficult, which is why most of us avoid it when we can. Because it means taking an honest look at yourself, including all of the “uncomfortable” or “ugly” bits you fight to ignore or deny.

But it’s only when you own your crap you can engage in the possibility of change, of re-shifting the story of your life. So what has been my role in my story? I have not come to a full answer as of yet, as I am still exploring and analyzing… but so far? Passivity, taking on the martyr complex, operating with the tired, faulty belief that I can change someone with my love, and letting past pain rule over my present. I used to throw myself whole-heartedly into the process of love, even though the other party was less than inclined… I believed that maybe they would eventually catch up. But unfortunately, what you often see in people, is really all that you’re going to get. Now I’ve veered to the other extreme of the spectrum, where I refrain from expressing or acting on my feelings, for fear of living out the same rejection yet again. Rejection sucks. And I’m sick of that story.

But that’s the thing about love. In order to hold it, grow it, you have to let yourself be seen by others. You have to take risks. Not doing so will only leave you alone, with a heavy longing eating away at your heart.

Recently, there has been someone that I’ve been having feelings for, and it’s through those feelings I’m coming to a better awareness of myself and how much my past pains have affected me… and how I am still holding onto them like a crutch. For protection? Certainly in agony and fear. But despite the long conversations we have (and how much I have grown to love them) and the strong attraction I feel toward this person, he told me of his past/somewhat current relationship troubles with his ex. In that conversation, I was struck with déjà vu, and it wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized it was because my past, or “one of my sob stories,” was happening again. The girl helping the boy who is still in love with another. The girl waiting to be seen while the boy mourned, and frankly, didn’t give much of a shit to the girl.

The secondary character role was sitting there for me to take.

And it’s there, right there, where we can change the story. Why I always stress to my clients and friends that awareness of your shit is so important. I saw that it’s in those decision points where we can re-shift. So what do I do next? Normally, Younger Anna would wish and hope that he’d acknowledge her and forget about his ex, because Anna has so much to offer too and he’ll eventually see it… and then soon she’d become disappointed, because life doesn’t function like a romantic comedy, and in reality, break-ups are tough. Plus he’s still in love.

As for Matured and Aware Anna, Present Version? She’s not feeling that story anymore. Because even though she does have so much to offer–she deserves to be with someone who will love her, appreciate her, be there for her, and see her for who she is. She doesn’t have to wait for someone to deal with their baggage for her to live her life, because this life isn’t for others to control or dictate. Maybe she’ll share her feelings in the future, or maybe she’ll let them fade as she looks elsewhere for a man who will want and is ready to engage in the process with her. Whichever way she chooses, it will be her choice, on her terms. And regardless she will ALWAYS choose to live life, to seek it out instead of waiting for it to happen.

Because this is my story, and I have the power to change it, to live a different one if I wish. Whatever happens, however the chips may fall, I want say I lived at the end of it all… all the while never losing faith that it will come when it comes along.

the gift of wounds

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We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds — the strength to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.

– Caroline Myss

practicing self-love

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I never make New Years’ resolutions, because I believe that you can take on the battle of change toward life and growth at any moment of your life, regardless of human constructs of time.

But this year I did make a resolution, as my new commitment fell along with the coming of the new year. My commitment: practice self-love and self-acceptance at every moment and turn. Even when I make mistakes, fail, or fall short… I will love and accept myself as I am. Always.

As I begun to take on this heavy endeavor, I soon started to realize the severity of how critically I viewed myself, cut myself up, for anything and everything. For not doing something right, not speaking as eloquently as someone else, not being stick-skinny, hating my reflection in the mirror, my eyes, my lips, the fact I suck at math, my own tendency to be so critical, even with myself. This list could go on, but of course it could, because when you want to hate something or someone, you will always find something to hate. Yet the same goes with love. If you view through the lens of “I will love this person,” you’ll then start to see the beauty they hold. It boils down to what lens you wish to put on when you look.

So I’ve been trying to re-orient my mind, my perspective, which is a constant effort, as I’ve become quite adapt at being critical with myself. But in doing this, a feeling of liberation has been easing its way into my being, little by little. Maybe I’m made this way for a reason, for a purpose. God is using every bit of me for His good, to be an encouragement to others. I used to hate myself for being “too sensitive” or being “so emotional” with people or situations, because that was what I was often criticized for. But yesterday, I came to a huge discovery: what if being sensitive, or having a deeply caring heart is my nature? What if my purpose is to feel deeply? And thus all of this time, I’ve been letting others get to me and subsequently letting myself deny my true nature?

Loving yourself for who you are is a huge act to take on, one that I cannot break down in a simple post. Perhaps I may in future blog posts. But one of the lessons I am learning so far is that loving yourself fully means allowing you to be you. Even if you’re not where you want to be now, allow yourself to be in this moment and this space, and accept yourself for who and where you are. Because being you as you are could very well be your nature, and in that, you can effect such wonderful good and light in this world. I believe we should always strive toward change and growth, but in the same hand, allow ourselves to be in the present, whichever stage we are at. Because there are great things to be done, wherever we may stand in our path to self-actualization.